Iowa has LSU’s full attention

Odell Beckham Jr.’s first reaction to LSU’s opponent in the Outback Bowl can be summed up in just one word.

“What?” the Tigers receiver said this week.

No. 14 LSU (9-3, 5-3 Southeastern Conference) meets unranked Iowa (8-4, 5-3 Big Ten) in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1 in Tampa, Fla.

It’s not a glamorous matchup for the Tigers. Ticket sales have been low, and even some players are baffled by the opponent.

Nebraska, Michigan and Wisconsin were other possible bowl opponents for LSU. The Hawkeyes, who missed a bowl last year, will have to suffice.

Iowa finished fourth overall in the Big Ten with wins over Michigan and Nebraska. The Hawkeyes’ four losses were to Top-25 teams, including defeats to No. 4 Michigan State (by 12) and No. 7 Ohio State (by 10).

They have LSU’s attention, despite the initial reaction.

“They’ve lost to quality opponents,” Beckham said.

“We care,” defensive tackle Anthony Johnson said. “At the end of the day, we had a disappointing season, but we look at it like this: we still have a lot of room to grow. We’re taking these bowl practices every day to get better.”

Several players noted what’s on the line: LSU can win 10 or more games for a fourth straight season and solidify the program’s fourth season finishing in the top 15.

Getting fired up shouldn’t be an issue, coach Les Miles said.

“I want to you to know one thing: If they don’t get fired up about playing in a quality bowl game against an opponent like Iowa, there’s something wrong with them,” Miles said this week. “They’re not getting that from me — I promise you.”

Remembering Mett’s injury

As soon as Jerald Hawkins turned around, he knew something was wrong.

Quarterback Zach Mettenberger lay on the ground, writhing in pain. He stayed there, clutching his left knee.

“Knowing Zach, he’s tough. I thought he was about to get up,” said Hawkins, LSU’s starting right tackle. “We thought he was about to hop up, so I turned my head. I turned back around (and) he was down, so I knew it had to be serious.”

Mettenberger suffered a season-ending injury on that play, coming midway through the fourth quarter in the win over Arkansas three weeks ago.

He reportedly tore the ACL in his left knee, a result of Arkansas defensive tackle Byran Jones falling on him while he launched a long completion.

Jones reached the quarterback after beating center Ethan Pocic, a backup who had replaced injured starter Elliott Porter.

Hawkins said Pocic is “great” and that Mettenberger holds no hard feelings against the true freshman.

“Zach told him to keep his head up and push through it,” Hawkins said. “It could happen to anyone.”

Lagniappe

Covington defense lineman Garrald McDowell, a four-star prospect, committed to Ole Miss as expected Friday. LSU had offered him a scholarship. McDowell was rated the 12th-best player in the state according to 24/7 Sports and 17th best by Rivals.com. … Dylan Williams, the LSU baseball signee who never enrolled in school because of legal matters, found trouble again, according to his hometown newspaper. Williams was charged with statutory rape and three counts of child molestation, according to The Daily Tribune News in Georgia. LSU coach Paul Mainieri said a couple of weeks ago that Williams would not be a part of the team in part because of a pass arrest.